As a standby in the off-Broadway musical The Fantasticks, I’m often in a Starbucks during most performances, so when it was time to go on for a short time, my initial response was, “Damn, there goes all my free time.” As a parent of two small children, time is at a premium. But you may think I’ve completely missed the boat, that I should be elated at having a performing opportunity—and you’d be right, it just took me a couple of days to get here.
So, you want to design for theatre? Where do you begin? There is no simple path to a career in design. Some people find their way into the industry fresh out of college; others discover theatre later in life. Many receive traditional education; others learn on the job. Whether you’re in high school considering the college path, or mid-career with an urge to see your art onstage, there’s room and potential for everyone.
Should you be an understudy, a standby, a swing? It’s kind of a vague question, but usually the undercurrent there is that once you become known as a reliable cover, you’ll be an understudy forever. You could ask Shirley MacLaine, Anthony Hopkins, Bernadette Peters, Taye Diggs, Matthew Morrison, or Lea Michelle; they all started out as understudies and moved on to exceptional careers. But let’s backtrack a little, what’s the actual difference in these special stage roles? Each of these positions holds its own unique advantages and challenges.
Clothing is the most intimate and relatable design element in theater. Everyone wears clothing, and everyone has opinions about clothing. Often what we wear says more than any words or actions do: who we are, where we’re from, what year it is, how much money we have, how much money we want other to think we have. These are just a few stories clothing tells in real life and onstage, making the relationship between the actor and the costume designer one of the most important. As you share your discoveries of your character, the costumer can share theirs and you can build a strong character together if you follow five simple steps.
Some people say that social media is more important to your career than actual talent. I wish I could say that is entirely untrue. We live in a world where people are dealing with lots of money. It takes a great deal of money to put on a Broadway show or create a new television series. We know that the industry likes to hire celebrities to star in their movies because name recognition sells tickets.
So why are we so surprised that industry executives want their performers to have followings? Maybe it is time to start looking at social media in a different way. Flip it on its head, and look at it as a brilliant opportunity to cultivate what makes us unique, and — in turn — helps us find our tribe. That tribe of followers can translate into a platform that can truly help you in your career. How you go about gaining your followers, creating your niche, and nurturing your platform is up to you. Here are some vital tips on how to use social media to enhance your performing arts career: